Paddle boarding is a super fun water sport that allows you to spend time in beautiful places and get a great workout too. You can do it in calm lakes, flowing rivers and even ride the ocean waves! Fly solo, or bring along a loved one or a furry friend. But although it looks simple, learning how to paddle board takes some practice. Luckily, we have put together all the paddle boarding tips you will need to hop on a board and start practicing. After reading our advice, you’ll be itching to get on the water.
Before we get into paddle boarding tips, what is this paddle boarding thing in the first place? Well, it’s not surfing or kayaking, but it has elements in common with both. This sport actually evolved from surfing, when surfers in Waikiki decided to paddle out on their longboards to get a better view of the surf. To clear up the confusion, we created for you a guide on paddleboard vs surfboard.
While you can ride the waves on some SUP boards, the main idea is to paddle in open water such as the ocean, a lake or a river. A paddle board paddle is similar to a canoe paddle, but longer. The name stand up paddle boarding seems pretty self explanatory, but there are many ways to enjoy your paddle board. The traditional way to SUP is standing up, but you can paddle in a kneeling position or even lying down.
On top of that, you can do so much more than paddle on a stand up paddle board. You can do yoga, go fishing and even go surfing on some boards. When it comes to paddling, you might want to go on long tours, join SUP races, or bring along a friend for a fun day out.
Reasons To Enjoy Paddle Boarding
Now that we have covered what paddle boarding is, let’s get into the next question – why should you try SUP?
1. It’s A Full-Body Workout
SUP boarding is one of the best full body workouts you can do. Of course, you are working your arms and upper body, but you are also working your legs and especially your core through stabilizing. In fact, trying to control your SUP board without engaging your core muscles is a recipe for falling.
2. It’s Low Impact
SUP boarding is certainly a workout, but it’s low-impact. It doesn’t put strain on the tendons or ligaments of the joints. This means that people of all ages can do it, as well as those recovering from an injury.
3. It’s Versatile
There’s almost nothing you can’t do on a stand up paddle board. SUP yoga, fishing, surfing, touring or having some family fun on the water. When you invest in a SUP board, you open the door to worlds of fun.
4. It’s A Great Way To Get Outdoors
Spending time in nature is essential for our mental health. When you go out on your SUP, there is so much you can explore. On top of all that, it’s a great way to get some Vitamin D.
5. Anyone Can Do It
SUP boarding can be enjoyed by people of all ages and body types, and people of any skill level. If you follow the tips below, you should start to feel content and confident on the board pretty soon.
Guide To Paddle Boarding
Now it’s time to get into what you really came here for. How do you paddle board?
Size Of Your Board
In order to paddle effectively, you need to make sure you have a board that is the right size. In general, width equals stability, so beginners should look for something wide and stable. When it comes to length, beginners should go for something between 9.5 and 12 feet (290-365cm). Paddlers under 150 lbs (68kg) should look around the 10 foot (305cm) range, those between 150 and 200 lbs (68-90kg) should look in the 11 foot (335) range, while heavier paddlers should pick something closer to 12 foot (365cm). Height also plays a role, so taller paddlers may need a longer board.
Maintaining balance is the first step in effective paddleboarding, and the first hurdle is standing up. First, stand next to your board in shallow water. Place your paddle across the board and your hands on the paddle, shoulder width apart. Then, get up and kneel on the board, with your knees just behind the center point. First make sure you have balance, then move to a squatting position and slowly stand up, and immediately make your first paddle strokes. Keep your feet hip width apart and your knees slightly bent, and engage that core! You may fall a few times, but don’t sweat it. Just remember to fall away from the board, and try again.
Balancing in waves is a little more challenging, so stick to calm waters at first.
Holding Your Paddle
Learning how to hold your SUP paddle correctly is essential. One hand should be on the shaft near the center, while you grip the top handle with the other hand. To check if the position is right, hold your paddle straight above your head. If you bend your arms with your upper arms parallel to the ground, your elbows should be making right angles. Also note that hand position depends on which side you are paddling on. When paddling to the right, your left hand should be on the handle, and vice versa.
Using Your Body
In order to both balance and paddle effectively, you need to use your whole body. Always keep your core engaged and your feet rooted to the board, and grip with your toes. If you let your body move from side to side, your board will rock from side to side too. Gather force from your legs and center, and draw power from your whole body – you can’t paddle using just your arms!
Paddle Board Strokes
Finally, we come to the paddle technique. Make sure that the bent part of the paddle blade is facing away from you, to avoid splashing and balance problems.
You will eventually master a number of paddling techniques, but let’s get the basics first. Rotate your hips and shoulders to hold your paddle out over the water surface, then put the blade fully in the water and glide it towards you with a smooth motion. Congratulations, you are paddleboarding!
Use this to turn your SUP. Bend your knees and lower your arms, plunge your paddle forward in the water, then sweep the paddle away from the board in a half circle motion from nose to tail.
Once you have mastered the above paddle strokes, you can try a more advanced turning technique. Place the paddle in the water behind you so that it is fully submerged. Then hold your arms straight and twist your torso to move the blade forward. If you perform a reverse stroke on your left side, the board will move to the left.
Types Of Paddle Board
When choosing what type of paddle board to buy, think about what activities you want to use it for.
1. Inflatable Vs Hard-Shell SUPs
The first decision to make is whether you want a hard-shell or an inflatable stand up paddle board. Hard boards may be slightly more durable, with an EPS foam core surrounded by layers of fiberglass and epoxy. However, inflatable paddle boards are much easier to transport and store. Plus, the good ones perform just as well as hard-shell boards. Find out more in our best inflatable paddle board review.
2. Yoga SUPs
Yoga SUP boards tend to be wide and put an emphasis on stability, as well as height above the water. They also tend to have a textured, cushioned deck pad to protect your knees and allow your feet to grip. Because they are so stable, they are great boards for beginners.
3. Fishing SUPs
Stand up paddle boards that are optimized for fishing are also wide and stable. They tend to include lots of D-rings for all your gear, or even attachments such as fishing rod holders. These paddle boards also work well for beginners.
4. Touring SUPs
Touring paddle boards also have lots of room for gear, but the difference is that they are long and narrow. This length allows for greater speed and efficiency when paddling long distances, but it does make them challenging for beginners because they lack stability.
5. All Around SUPs
All around paddle boards, like these, are designed to perform reasonably well for all activities. They can be used on ocean waves and calm waters. These boards are great for beginners who don’t want to limit themselves to one SUP activity.
Essential Paddle Board Equipment
Make sure you take these things with you on board, particularly for extended paddling trips.
- SUP Paddle: This goes without saying – you can’t paddle board without a SUP paddle!
- Safety leash: A safety leash is essential. This will prevent you from losing your board in the waves, and it can save your life in an emergency.
- Repair kit: Most inflatable paddle boards come with a repair kit, and it is important to bring this along if you are paddling far out. Sudden leaks are unlikely, but you need to know how to repair your board if they do occur. Watch a video or two to learn how.
- Personal flotation device (PFD): According to the US Coastguard, you have to take a PFD with you on board.
Ideally, you should wear your PFD at all times, and this is obligatory for children aged 12 and under.
Storage And Transport Of Your Paddle Board
Correct storage and transportation of your paddle board is an important part of extending its lifespan.
Storage is basically the same no matter what type of board you have. The main thing to remember is to store it in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Make sure your board is clean and dry before storing it. Your SUP can be stored in its bag or not, as long as it is protected from the elements. It’s best not to leave an ISUP inflated for too long.
If you do leave your inflatable paddle board inflated for a few days, bring it down to a lower PSI so that the materials are not damaged.
- Inflatable paddle board: The transportability of ISUPs is a big selling point. Just toss your board in its carry bag in the back of the car. It is also possible to transport an inflated ISUP on a roof rack.
- Hard-shell paddle board: For hard-shell boards, you will need a roof rack. Make sure your board is securely attached with straps in three places. Transport it deck down to minimize wind resistance.
- Carrying: When carrying a hard-shell board or an inflated ISUP by yourself, carry it on your side with one hand holding the center handle. Bend from your knees, keep your back straight and engage your core.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stand up paddle boarding is definitely a good workout. It works your entire body, and you can get some cardio if you paddle fast. SUP boarding is particularly good for core strengthening, but it works almost every muscle group from your arms down to your calves.
You can absolutely sit on a paddle board. If you are a passenger, you should stay sitting. If you are alone on the board, you can paddle on your knees. If you just want to hang out on board, you can absolutely sit on your SUP. Just make sure that your paddle is secured so you don’t lose it.
Paddle boarding is not that difficult. It may seem tricky at first to maintain balance and control the board, but it only takes a little experience to get the hang of it. Taking lessons will help you nail your technique quickly, but you can get all the information you need from articles like this one and watching a video or two. Then, it’s all about practicing. You should feel comfortable on the water after going out a few times.
Paddle boarding uses pretty much all the muscle groups in your body. While paddling, you will of course use the muscles of your arms, shoulders and upper back. You will also be using your legs to maintain stability. Importantly, you will be working your core muscles to balance and generate power while paddling.
You should wear a personal flotation device (PFD) for paddle boarding. Other than that, it depends on the weather, location and how long you plan to be out. If you will be in the sun for several hours, a hat and sun protection is necessary. If the weather is cold or windy, make sure to wear something warm. If the water is cold, you might consider a wetsuit. Either way, make sure to wear clothes that can get wet and won’t weigh you down in the case of an unplanned dip.
Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic experience, no matter where you take your SUP or whether you do it solo or with company. We hope these tips have helped you get a handle on the basics of how to paddle board. But in the end, it doesn’t matter how many articles or posts you read, you have to get on the water and start practicing! It’s time for you and your SUP board to get to know each other.